Syria buffer free of heavy arms as jihadists face deadline

Lester Mason
October 12, 2018

Led by former Al-Qaeda fighters, HTS has yet to announce its stance on the buffer zone deal.

According to the agreement, heavy weapons, tanks, rocket systems and mortars belonging to rebel groups would be withdrawn by October 10, while Russian Federation and Turkey will conduct joint patrols in the demilitarized zone.

On Monday, the Turkey-backed National Liberation Front (NLF) completed withdrawing heavy arms from the zone, according to Turkish state media.

"The buffer zone is now nearly empty of any heavy weapons on the eve of the expiry of the deadline", its chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. "Heavy weapons were mostly in back posts in our bases".

Five days of the deadline, the fighters of HTS and other groups-jihadists do, however, have shown no sign of a possible departure. The document stipulates a complete withdrawal of troops and equipment from the line of contact between the government forces of the Syrian Arab Republic and the illegal armed groups, including ISIL and "Dzhebhat EN-Nusra".

According to the deal, the zone would separate rebel and regime zones under the supervision of the two sponsor countries.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem had expressed confidence in Turkey s ability to fulfil its side of the deal "because of its knowledge of factions" on the ground.

The main jihadist group in the Idlib area, Tahrir al-Sham, has yet to comment publicly on the agreement.

"HTS is playing the long game in Idlib", said Nicholas Heras of the Center for a New American Security.

In recent weeks, Turkey has sent military convoy in the province of Idleb and its soldiers are supposed to patrol in the future "demilitarized zone".

"The Russians want to freeze the war in western Syria and get on with the business of rebuilding Assad s zone of control", he said.

Triggered in march 2011 by the brutal repression of protests, pro-democracy, the war in Syria has killed more than 360,000 people and driven to the leak of millions of others.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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